Rolling into January, off the back of a very warm and sunny December, was definitely an experience, albeit not one I’d like to repeat any time soon! The long awaited snow finally started to fall around the 14th and it hasn’t stopped since, leaving Grindelwald in a snow coma for the past few weeks. There’s been more snow than anything else in January, without a doubt.
This season has been very quiet, around 50% less ski lessons have ben reported in town. Two things have caused this. Firstly, the drastic lack of snow through December, leaving people with little faith of a good season ahead, and secondly the price of the Swiss Frank (CHF) rocketing through the roof!
Any holidaymakers who’ve come to Grindelwald this season have almost had the mountain to themselves, or at least it seems that way!
So, as a snowboard instructor, who only speaks English, I have been somewhat deprived of work, with a grand total of 5 hours teaching through January. My theory is that we’ll get a backlash of customers flooding the town in February after such heavy snowfall through January – of course, this is 90% hopeful speculation.
Regardless to the start of the season, one thing is for sure – the snow’s here now! Powder heads in Grindelwald have been given a massive treat as the weather is slowly starting to turn into sun after constant snowstorms.
It’s one thing riding the visible off piste on the side of runs, but knowing the backcountry routes and hidden spots can revolutionise a powder day. Most people wouldn’t think of the Jungfrau region for long, rolling backcountry trails that go on and on, but the truth is it’s out there!
I picked up the Jungfrau Freeride Guide, which documents all of the best backcountry routes. It includes difficulty scores amongst other info, e.g. hiking time and angle of slope – which is good to bear in mind, especially when there’s a high avalanche risk.
Asides from skiing or snowboarding, there’s always something else going on in Grindelwald. This week saw the 20th Annual Velogemel Race. A Velogemel in its simplest form is a wooden bicycle without wheels, but with sled tracks instead. Velogemels are completely unique to Grindelwald and have been a traditional form of transport here for many years.
The Velogemel race kicks off at Busalp, known as the world’s longest sled track, so it’s a long endurance race, this year won by local Stebler Martin.
The World Snow Festival has an annual stopping point in Grindelwald too; giant ice sculptures turn the town into an art gallery for a month. Artists from around the globe come to town to sculpt their masterpieces and take a shot at winning the competition. My personal highlights from this year were the cracking egg by team Sweden, and the Giant head by team Slovenia.